NetApp, Cisco Unveil Joint FlexPod Channel Program

NetApp and Cisco on Monday unveiled a combined channel program for their FlexPod converged infrastructure business, calling it the first such united program developed by two major vendors.

That program, the FlexPod Premium Partner Framework, brings NetApp and Cisco together to develop partner enablement and certification strategies for top solution provider partners common to the two, said Brian Allison, director of data center go-to-market solutions for San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco.

"This is the first time two companies have gotten together to speak as one voice with partners about how they go to market and build their business," Allison said. "We want to talk about how to build the FlexPod business, provide the needed tools and increase profitability."

[Related: NetApp, Cisco Intro Entry-Level FlexPod Reference Architecture ]

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Allison said the FlexPod Premium Partner Framework is the opportunity to give partners a branding unique to the FlexPod offering. "It says to the market, 'I'm a FlexPod partner with advanced capabilities,'" he said.

FlexPod is not a product but is instead an architecture that provides a large degree of flexibility in configuring storage solutions based on NetApp storage and Cisco networking and UCS server technology.

FlexPod is a series of pre-validated configurations based on various storage appliances from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetApp, and it can be modified by solution providers to meet customer requirements.

Paul Lidsky, president and CEO of Datalink, a Chanhassen, Minn.-based solution provider and partner to both vendors, called the new FlexPod Premium Partner Framework an important step both in the industry as well as for the industry and for the two vendors' partners.

"When you think about FlexPod and its integrated nature, having the two vendors come together sends a strong message, not only about support but about the importance of their collaboration going forward," Lidsky said.

Datalink's primary storage partner is NetApp, and the company already had all the requisite certifications from that vendor and from Cisco, making it easy for the solution provider to be the first to receive FlexPod Premium Partner Framework authorization, Lidsky said

"Datalink was also the first partner to be certified to offer direct support, not via the manufacturer, for FlexPod customers," he said. "So when customers buy FlexPod from us, they're not concerned about whether to contact NetApp or Cisco. They call Datalink. The new program expands the environment for support and sends the message to customers that the two vendors are committed to working together."

NEXT: Minimal Requirements To Join

With the FlexPod Premium Partner Framework, NetApp and Cisco are not asking channel partners to make a major change in how they work with the vendors, Cisco's Allison said.

"It requires incremental training," he said. "The training is online. There's no need to take anyone from the field."

That training includes taking a technical consulting accelerator module that provides partners a way to benchmark their professional services, as well as some new pre-sales and post-sales competencies, all of which are available online.

The vendors are also providing FlexPod Premium Partner Framework partners with a new online demo lab to try new solutions with customers. "Our FlexPod Premium Partner Framework partners get priority access to the lab," Allison said. "We've been in beta with the lab for 60 days, and it's already booked solid for the next 90 days."

Peter Howard, senior director of data center alliances at NetApp, said there are about 400 joint Cisco and NetApp channel partners. About 225 of those partners are currently authorized to work with FlexPod, and about 150 of them are actively selling FlexPod Worldwide.

Of the 225 authorized partners, 20 percent deliver about 80 percent of the business. The new Framework program is targeting the top 10 percent of the two vendors' partners, Howard said.

However, he said, the program is open to all partners who want to invest in it.

"The requirements are light but meaningful," he said. "Partners need two people to take a half-day training in sales and pre-sales, as well as two people who each need 1.5 days of post-sales training. If partners choose to go through the certification, we welcome them to join."